By Cassidy Smith, Written Communications Specialist

Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but Lights of Love was still so delightful! Although the weather didn’t cooperate with the outdoor festivities, Lights of Love 2019 illuminated the city of Albertville on Tuesday, December 10th. From first-timers to Lights of Love trailblazers, Shepherd’s Cove radiated with warmth and remembrance as we welcomed families of our past and present.

Lights of Love is an annual Christmas celebration hosted by Shepherd’s Cove. The event gives families the opportunity to return to the facility, embrace and visit with other families, caretakers, and hospice staff, and fondly remember and honor the loved ones that were trusted with us.

To welcome families into the event, members of Shepherd’s Cove staff, including CEO Rhonda Osborne and executive assistant Erin Ogle, surrounded the two pianists (compliance director Mandy Chandler and volunteer Will Gates) to invite visitors and old friends into the Ruth Walker Welcome Center with live Christmas carols. As families filed through the familiar front doors of the welcome center, other staff members waited with open arms to embrace and celebrate the holidays with them. The love between the staff and the families radiated throughout the facility, leaving each attendee feeling warm and embraced as part of the Shepherd’s Cove family; after all, when you come to Shepherd’s Cove, you are family.

Nestled inside the welcome center is the library, well-lit between the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and the fireplace, which also served to warm the visiting families. Donor relations specialist Malarie Allen and visual communications specialist Rachel Burbanks snapped portraits of our friends next to the staggering Christmas tree, just one of the numerous decorated trees throughout the facility. The Shepherd’s Cove family portraits allow us to enjoy the families, appreciate the progress they have made, and become closer to them as a whole.

As the music continued, visitors wandered the halls of the facility, stopping at each available activity purposed to remember and honor their late loved ones. In the chapel, which served as a sanctuary of silence and reflection, a list of our patients from the last year was displayed. This allowed the families of those patients to visit, remember, and honor their loved ones in the same place that helped them find peace in troubled times.

Down the hall in the children’s room, visiting children played and created Christmas crafts. Ryan Smothers, a Shepherd’s Cove social worker, instructed the laughing, eager children in each step of the craft, from cutting construction paper into certain shapes to putting it all together to create a Christmas masterpiece. The children looked proud of their creations, excitedly holding them up for Ryan and their parents to see.

While festivities continued in the welcome center, visitors were also welcomed into the Community Room for snacks, refreshments, and relaxation. Projected onto the big screen was a list of their loved ones who passed in our care this year as well as the names of sponsors, volunteers, and even pets of the families’ loved ones. Classic Christmas songs echoed through the otherwise silent room, giving families a quiet background on which to reflect and remember their late loved ones.

As the night progressed and the sun went down, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice’s front lawn was illuminated by memorial lanterns, one for each loved one who passed on with us this year. These beautiful lanterns served as visual reminders of the light that exuded from each of the loved ones no longer with us. Looking out onto the lawn was just another chance for families to reflect upon their experiences here at Shepherd’s Cove and to appreciate the lifelong relationships that are built between them and the hospice staff.

Lights of Love is all about the relationships between Shepherd’s Cove Hospice and the wonderful families who walk through our doors. In the words of social worker Ryan Smothers, “Our services do not stop once a loved one passes away; we are with you when you need us.” Happy Holidays and warm wishes to you from Shepherd’s Cove Hospice.